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8 Minutes Hate: A&E Plans to Ambush Sex Workers

the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”
When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”

“Women who sell their bodies” used to be the go-to word combination that triggered my gag reflex right into action. But “hooker-rescuing cop-turned-pastor” was introduced to my life this week and has transformed my once-tranquil apartment into Lane Champagne’s Extreme Vomitorium. The man with this heinous career trajectory is Kevin Brown and he’s starring in a new reality show tentatively titled 8 Minutes after its premise: He has eight minutes to convince sex workers to leave behind their whoring ways. Those who leave sex work are given free training in the second career of their choice and those who decline are sent on their merry way with Brown’s best wishes for a good earning season. HAHA, just kidding, none of that last sentence is true because whorephobia is pernicious and Earth has actually been Hell along!

Of all the professions to produce potential sex work interventionists, law enforcement and clergy are at the very top of the Unsuitable list. Behind those two are literally every single other profession, because sex work interventions are vile exercises in the hatred and shaming of sex working individuals and shouldn’t exist. And it certainly shouldn’t exist as a spectacle on cable television. There is a Change.org petition to get A&E to shut that shit down, you should sign it. Let’s also take out a Backpage ad in every possible city warning local sex workers to be prepared for lurking reality show cameras.

Producer Tom Forman (the man behind the legally and ethically challenged Kid Nation) told Entertainment Weekly that the show was inspired by an LA Times article about Brown’s rescue missions. That story opens with another cop-turned-resucuer showing up to a woman’s outcall and doing this:

Reese reaches into the pocket of his tan cargo shorts and pulls out a latex condom. There’s a phone number scribbled on one side in black marker. He hands it to her.

He asks if she sees the phone number.

She examines the packet but ignores the question. She presses him for the money.

“I’m not really here for a date,” Reese says. “I’m here to offer you help.”

They rescue this one woman (on the night the reporter is along!), despite having been on 60 previous missions without anyone taking up their offer. She didn’t get career training; she got a one-way ticket home on a Greyhound. And lo, from this massive service to women a reality show was born, one with a 50/50 success rate according to Forman, who also told EW “Sometimes they turn and leave, but that’s the case when trying to save prostitutes.”

Leaving aside the fact that Brown is sentient diarrhea more than he’s an actual person, I’ve broken down the reasons the very concept of the show is a bad idea for two primary types of sex worker that Brown targets: people who don’t want to leave sex work and people who do.

Flesh And Bone (2015)

The intro sequence of >i> Flesh and Bone .
The intro sequence of Flesh and Bone.

Flesh and Bone is on Starz, and predictably over the top, and you know it will be from the moment the credits start. A tiny ballerina dances amidst red dust that’s maybe blood, maybe drugs, who even knows, accompanied by a cover of that Animotion song “Obsession.”

Flesh and Bone is a dance story, and as such, it needs a wide-eyed young woman in a new and anxiety-provoking dance environment: sadistic and deeply unhappy gay impresario Paul’s (Ben Daniels) company. The show adds some seriously Black Swan elements of grotesquerie and personal torment, and then its own unique take on compromise.

And that’s what made it interesting to me. Not the dancing, although I like it. And not the relatively few strip club scenes, which is how I got sold on it. I’m interested in the way it works with compromise, or what some would call prostitution. Not just actual whoring—although yes, also that—but the other dictionary definition, the exchange of personal values for some other kind of gain. What do we do for money, the show asks, in between shots of beautiful bodies stretched to improbable limits and monstrous shots of pain and suffering. What’s the price for a chance at success, and what does that cost?

Support Hos: Breaking Bad’s Wendy

Wendy starts her run on AMC’s Breaking Bad playing the lead in a live scared-straight PSA. Hank Schrader, the loudmouth DEA agent, pulls up to her motel’s parking lot while she’s grabbing a root beer from the vending machine. He’s got his nephew in tow, and it’s pretty clear what show he wants to see: the junkie hooker whose life is so godawful that Walt Junior will be terrified right off the gateway drugs.

Hank’s an asshole. He calls Wendy “princess.” “Don’t make me get out of this car,” he hollers out the window, in a tone that would make me and my touchy indoor pride and nervous indoor instincts bolt the other way. But Wendy’s not what you’d expect, and she’s barely what Hank’s expecting, either. She wanders over, apathetic but dutiful. She pegs him straight away as a cop, then as a cop who wants to buy pot, then as a cop who wants to buy pot and have her blow the teenager in the car with him. She’s pretty okay with all of those things, except the teenager part, and checks to see if she can instead score some weed off of him. She barely answers any of his leading questions and eventually Hank gives up and dismisses her. She saunters away, unfazed.

The problem for Hank, whose dickhead ways give voice to an anti-sex-work public, is that Wendy isn’t scary. Nothing about the whole scene is scary, except maybe her gruesome teeth. The scene illustrates the gulf between public perception of the horrors of sex work (and drug use) and the banal realities of both choices. After the conversation, when Hank turns to Walt Junior and says, “So, what do you think?” Walt Junior, bless his heart, gives voice to a kindlier, dudelier, segment of the public, and just grins: “Cool.”

2 Broke Girls, “And The Upstairs Neighbor”: A Wacky Misunderstanding

2 Broke Girls is, in its first season, a breakout hit for the bawdy CBS network. The traditional, filmed-before-a-live-studio-audience sitcom follows the adventures of a mismatched pair of young women waitressing at a diner while they save up to launch a cupcake business. Occasionally there are jokes that use Coldplay and the Arcade Fire as punchlines, and it takes place in Williamsburg, so it’s sometimes called a hipster comedy.

It’s a show that we love to hatewatch. 2 Broke Girls has shocked us (I know!) at times with its throwback racism and heavy use of rape jokes, not to mention its willingness to toss off lines about cumshots, anal, and 85 variations on “that’s what she said.” From the very first episode, we wondered, “Why don’t they just strip?” and patiently waited for the idea of doing sex work to occur to them. Finally, the episode “The Upstairs Neighbor” addressed sex work. Sort of. Bubbles, Charlotte, and Kat gathered on Skype to watch and comment on how 2 Broke Girls handled the idea of hooking.

Guys Do It Too: Celebrity Edition

Thomas Jane — Image via Twitchfilm

Thomas Jane, star of HBO’s Hung recently alluded to a personal sex work past. Sound like a publicity stunt? Maybe. But it’s unlikely the actor would be hyping up his show about middle class, straight male escorting with stories of street work while homeless and just 18. (Or, as Us magazine—can I put the magazine part in quotes?—charmingly puts it, “I was a homeless gay hooker.”) What Jane actually said was:

You know, when I was a kid out here in L.A., I was homeless, I didn’t have any money and I was living in my car. I was 18. I wasn’t averse to going down to Santa Monica Boulevard and letting a guy buy me a sandwich. Know what I mean?

Though Us insists Jane is admitting to having “often performed sexual acts with other men in order to pay the bills,” it sounds more like he occasionally allowed a (survival) sugar daddy type relationship to develop with other men. It’s also possible the Us staff is not great at  reading: Jane said he was accepting of “sexual flavors” not “sexual favors“…provided that’s not a transcription error by the LA Times?

The emphasis in the interview is more on his sexual “experimentation” back then, and his attempt to make nice with the gay media who thought some of his previous statements were homophobic. But Mr. Jane, if you ever do decide to dish on the details of that time in your life, think of us first. We’d love to have an exclusive.